Clad in knee-high leather boots, spandex shorts and a sports bra, Xiao Yan struck a pose two feet off the ground, her head glistening with sweat and her arms straining as she suspended herself from a vertical pole.
â€œKeeping your grip is the hardest part,â€ she said. â€œItâ€™s really easy to slide downward.â€
Ms. Xiao, 26, who works as a supermarket manager, is one of a growing number of women experimenting with Chinaâ€™s newest, and most controversial, fitness activity: pole dancing.
â€œI used to take a normal aerobics class, but it was boring and monotonous,â€ Ms. Xiao said. â€œSo I tried out pole dancing. Itâ€™s a really social activity. Iâ€™ve met a lot of girls here who Iâ€™m now close friends with. And I like that it makes me feel sexy.â€
A nightclub activity mostly considered the domain of strippers in the United States, pole dancing â€” but with clothes kept on â€” is nudging its way into the mainstream Chinese exercise market, with increasing numbers of gyms and dance schools offering classes.